POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 111 Becoming a caregiver to parents involves major changes for all concerned - physically, emotionally, socially and financially. Learning to cope with the changes in a healthy way is important to ensure you and your aging parents can live in a mutually loving and giving relationship. If you are concerned about your relationship with your aging parents, we hope this pamphlet will help you and your parents adjust to your new roles. The changing picture of aging People today live longer than ever before. Most of us will spend nearly one third of our life as "retirees" or "senior citizens." Four or even five-generation families are no longer unheard of. But as we live longer, the chances grow that we will some day need help caring for ourselves. Today, many adult daughters and sons find themselves called upon to help care for their aging parents. The commitment they have to make may be for a short time or it may last for years. It changes the roles, responsibilities and feelings within the family and can be complicated and confusing. How to keep the quality in family relationships At the same time, caring for an aging parent can also benefit the family. It can bridge the gaps among generations. Family support systems can be strengthened as members learn to prepare themselves for their own aging. How can you get the best out of this new relationship? • Encourage without giving advice. Advice from adult sons and daughters is a tricky proposition and best avoided unless you are sure it has been asked for. It is generally better to let an outside person be the advisor. • Accept differences of opinions, values, habits, likes and dislikes between you and your parents. There is often a "generation gap" between parents and children, regardless of how old they are. Respect these differences. • Keep humour and fun alive in the family. A shared laugh can do wonders to ease tension, build closeness, and even improve health. • Recognize that grandchildren and grandparents may have a special relationship. If neither has the burden of responsibility for the other, they are free to enjoy each other’s company and share ideas and experiences. What can you do for your parents? Care-giving involves difficult decisions which should be handled with as much thought and discussion as possible. Do not jump into drastic changes, like having your parent move into your home, because you feel guilty or pressured, or as a "quick fix." Be realistic about your own abilities, desires and limitations, as well as those of your family members. Weigh the options carefully. Consider these issues as you take on increased care of your parent: What can your parents reasonably expect from you? • What can you reasonably expect from your parents? • Listening is an important part of caring. Listen to your parents.You may be one of the few who does. • Independence is key to mental and physical health. Encourage and support your parents’ independence. • Let your parents know about community services or assistance available to them so they can make informed choices for themselves. • Encourage your parents to discuss sensitive issues, like disability, nursing homes, even dying, if and when they seem interested in such discussions. • Learn what the legal system has to offer you and your parents. Options like a power of attorney may help to manage your parents’ finances and their future. What can you do for yourself? To cope well, it helps to separate the "person" (your parent) from the "process" (normal aging). Continued CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION ASSOCIATION CANADIENNE POUR LA SANTÉ MENTALE Aging Parents